Has the economy impacted restaurant consumers?

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The National Beef Checkoff recently released the findings of an online study conducted in January 2012 designed to measure consumers’ purchasing habits at foodservice establishments based on current economic pressures facing Americans.

Consumers had to pay 10% more for beef in 2011 reported USDA and predictions are that 2012 may follow with an increase of 5%. The concern of what impact these rising costs may have on consumers’ purchasing habits as well as impact this may have at the foodservice level in regard to pricing and beef options offered to customers, sparked the Beef Checkoff to conduct this follow-up study. Previous studies conducted in 2008 and 2011 indicated economic pressures were leading consumers to “trade down” (buying less expensive cuts of beef and/or increasing ground beef purchases) and  “trade out” (shifting from beef to less expensive protein, especially chicken).  The 2012 study consisted of responses from 1,013 adult beef eaters.

Findings from the study include: 

  • Respondents indicated when eating out over the past year, 85% had eaten at a quick-service restaurant (e.g. Burger King, McDonald’s, etc), 84% had eaten at a traditional dining restaurant (e.g. Chili’s, Applebees, etc), 45% ate at a Steakhouse and only 31% had eaten at a fine-dining restaurant.
  • 89% of the consumers had eaten beef and 81% ate chicken at a full-service restaurant in the past 12-months. Men (91%) are more likely than women (87%) to have eaten a beef meal.
  • As a reward after a long week of work, 63% of the consumers choose beef over chicken for their reward meal but one in four women consider a chicken meal a better reward.
  • The impact of the economy was relevant as 39% of the consumers said they have decreased their visits to full-service restaurants in the past six months. Only 9% have actually increased their visits but 16% of the Millennial age group indicated they are dining out more.
  • Price is a determinant for some consumer’s decision to order a steak, primarily within the age group of 18-34. Nearly half this age group indicated price is a barrier to their purchase decision. Those with annual incomes below $50,000 were more likely to feel price is a barrier in their decision to order a steak and those in the Millennial age group (46%) were more likely than the total respondents to say they rarely order a steak due to price than the total respondent group.
  • Due to the economic pressures, restaurant diners are seeking ways to still order beef while saving money during their visits to full-service restaurants. 34% of the respondents will order a less expensive steak instead of a higher priced steak, 35% will order a chicken meal over a steak meal; 23% will order a less expensive steak instead of higher priced chicken meal; 16% will order ground beef meal instead of a steak and 14% will order a ground beef meal over chicken meal.

The study concluded that even with the concern about price, about 34% or one third of the diners are still ordering steak because they associate it as “worthy of the price” and a good value for the money. For those diners who were trying to save money when they dined out, almost three-quarters of them (73%) opted to trade down to a less expensive beef meal rather than shifting to chicken.

Source: Lynn Gordon



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